Tracking medical errors amid health tech push

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Fred Schulte and Emma Schwartz are still hot on the trail of health information technology at the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, now exploring the timeline and tactics involved in tracking medical errors as part of widespread stimulus-funded HIT adoption. Colleague Amanda Zamora’s companion graphic helps provide both an at-a-glance overview and in-depth understanding of how errors are tracked now and how they will be monitored in the future.

Schulte and Schwarz write that a federal panel hopes to create a national database of HIT-related errors, but that it won’t be functional until 2013, a date many experts fear is unnecessarily distant.

The draft proposal would require doctors and hospitals to report problems as a condition of receiving stimulus money, starting in 2013. The panel, which is expected to finalize the plan next month, also wants to require that manufacturers alert customers when software glitches are discovered and require all users of the systems to undergo safety training

But many early adopters, who often have spent a decade or more and tens of millions of dollars working out kinks, say that even additional oversight can’t stave off every potential hazard. And they are becoming increasingly vocal about the downside of rushing into buying the highly complex technology.

“There is a great fear among many people that we are asking organizations to go too far too fast,” said Justin Starren, who directs health technology at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin. “It’s a foregone conclusion that with this many installations that some people will make some mistakes.”

hj10-100Schulte will be taking part in a panel about “Tracking health-related stimulus money” at Health Journalism 2010. Joining him on the panel will be ProPublica reporter Michael Grabell and Phil Galewitz, a reporter for Kaiser Health News and member of AHCJ’s board of directors.

3 thoughts on “Tracking medical errors amid health tech push

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